happy new year!

I was given this lovely simple shimekazari to put on the door, made of straw and rice, to ward off evil spirits and invite the good ones in. Let's hope it works!shimekazariToday we enjoyed a Japanese osechi meal, all handmade and tasty, in a variety of special dishes, many of them wedding gifts used for the first time. Sometimes making beautiful food can be as fascinating as illustration.osechiAnd here's a close-up of a little carrot blossom I made...carrotHope it will be a healthy and happy 2016 for you all!  

Kyushu part II

From Kumamoto, we travelled by scenic train to Kagoshima, with its famous active volcano Sakurajima. We visited up close, riding the boat across the bay, watching nervously at the smoke puffing gently from the top...sakurajimaWe spent a day further south in Ibusuki, and visited the famous sand baths. At Yamakawa it was calm, almost tropical, and we saw another famous mountain called Kaimondake, with its perfectly conical shape.ibusukiThe skies we saw over the waters were truly magical through the train windows, as we travelled along the coast.coastWe ate at a tiny restaurant, that specialised in local style yakitori, and the regulars were amazed to see us. These sorts of places are what make travel amazing...IMG_9169From there we made our way to Kurokawa Onsen, passing by yet another active volcano, Aso san. At Kurokawa we stayed in a lovely traditional ryokan and tried many different sorts of onsen baths. We rested, and walked in the Autumnal mountains.autumn And then back we went to Fukuoka for one more evening of tasty food. Here's a lovely tempura place we found, dating back to the 1930's!IMG_8230And then on to Tokyo, and home.

Kyushu part I

This week I have been in Kyushu Japan, starting my travels by train around the island. from train 2I love travelling by train here, it's so efficient and also somehow charming. As you get further into the countryside, the trains become smaller, more unusual and fun! We started in Fukuoka, eating at yatais, and we're now in Kumamoto, at an adorable minshuku guesthouse in the countryside. I drew the view from our two windows.window watercolourThe rice has just been harvested, but the fields are still beautifully green, resting until the summer.countryside1

Laurie R. King

This week I went to Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park to hear one of my favourite authors Laurie R. King talk about her new Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes novel. She chatted quite informally with another crime writer, Catriona McPherson, and I sketched them as I listened.Laurie R King colour Afterwards I asked them to sign my sketchbook. What a wonderful evening!

Japan trip: Wakayama

I've just spent a lovely few days in the Kii peninsula, in Wakayama, Japan. We stayed in traditional guest houses, in onsen towns along the Kumano Kodo ancient pilgrimage route. Our first stay was in Yunomine.The tiny public onsen 'tsuboyu' there is the only UNESCO world heritage recognised hot spring! After enjoying that, and cooking our own onsen eggs, we walked part of the Kumano Kodo, over a mountain, enjoying the moss and ferns.I love the combination of lush green, tall trees, and ancient stones.We then stayed at the delightful Kameya Ryokan in Kawayu Onsen, on the Ota river.We sat on the rocks and swam in the river, where the cold running water mixed with the bubbling hot spring water rising up through the stones.I love onsen holidays!

Tokyo print exhibition

Our collaborative mokuhanga print project wood + paper + box is on show until sunday at the Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidei). You can read all about it here.This is the installation, which shows a generally chronological view of our 1 year project.Each print was framed in perspex and had its own individual shelf. We showed each artwork as a physical object.This uchiwa fan is my final print. It's double-sided and when the light shines through the white jugs, you can see the reverse print pattern through it. Hope you can make it see the show!

Art in Chicago

This weekend I'm in Chicago. The weather's perfect, and I'm loving it. I've always thought that Chicago is a wonderful secret that nobody tells outsiders, and I feel lucky to have discovered it. And I finally got to see 'the bean', aka 'cloud gate' by Anish Kapoor......on my way to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favourite museums in the world. It's just so full of famous paintings that take your breath away.Seurat's 'A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte' has a special place in my heart. I can't quite explain why it moves me so much, but it's like visiting an old friend. The monkey is the cherry on the cake, it's just so delightful.This beautiful Georgia O'Keefe painting of clouds was a lovely surprise.There was also a wonderful little show of Utamaro mokuhanga prints, which crowned an inspiring day.

slice of pear

This year I'm working on a collaborative mokuhanga project with my friends Yoonmi Nam and Katie Baldwin. We're going to give a presentation and hold an exhibition of the work we produce at the International Mokuhanga Conference in Tokyo in September. It's very exciting! Here's a preparatory sketch for my first piece of work for the project...and a test print of the colours.You can follow the group's progress on our blog woodpaperbox.

my birthday!

It was my birthday this week, and I spent it in San Francisco. I went to the Asian Art Museum to see the Japanese art exhibition, and admired some lovely ceramics (this is a birthday peach from a Chinese plate),and some Japanese sculptures and painted screens.I walked through the civic centre and then on to the Hayes Valley to look at some pretty boutiques......and then in the evening we went to Sons & Daughters, a lovely little restaurant in Nob Hill. The service was delightful, the food exquisite. I drew each dish in the tasting menu as it came out...and took some photos of the colours and presentation. Yum in every way.

Bob Foundation wrapping book

My favourite bit about Christmas is wrapping the gifts. I often wrap other people's gifts too! My friends Bob Foundation in Tokyo have just published a new book about wrapping. I love wrapping!  They asked me to demonstrate my wrapping powers, and here I am in the book, with my specially wrapped Bob gift.I used to dream about being the gift-wrapping person in the department stores in Japan....

Cotswolds afternoon tea

We just spent the day in the Cotswolds, and had the loveliest afternoon tea ever at Juri's Tearoom in the country town of Winchcombe. The crockery was a pretty blue... ...and the view from the conservatory was delightful. But it's the cakes you need to try; honestly, the cheese cake was the best I've ever had, anywhere. So light and fluffy. The sandwiches were beautiful too. Everything is perfect, as it's traditional English, but with a slight hint of the Japanese, as Juri is from there.I absolutely recommend this place if you're anywhere near...

travel photos

I've just got my negatives back from my latest Asia trip, and here are a few photos to share...This is Taipa old village, in Macau. There are still a few tiny patches of old charm left there, if you look hard.Ritsurin Garden in Shikoku, Japan. It's listed as one of the top three, and was calm, orderly and very green, with delightful koi and picturesque red bridges.Sayabashi bridge in Kotohira. We went to climb the mountain to Kompira san here, a famous pilgrimage temple & shrine. More photos on the way, but hope you like these in the meantime!

iriya plus cafe mural

While I was in Tokyo two weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Naomi who runs iriya plus cafe, in Iriya, near Ueno. It's in an old warehouse building that she renovated, keeping the gorgeous original wooden beams and shelves, and overall traditional Japanese style, but adding a modern feel.She commissioned me to paint a mural on the main cafe wall, as a backdrop for the upcoming 'pancake party' event, with live music by the local band JOYZ (you can see them in the above photo).I drew this initial rough design, but found out that they don't make pancakes in a frying pan! So I took the pancake out and added more text. I also changed the font I used for 'POP' into my more comfortable calligraphic stye. Here's how it looked when it was done.A photographer called Takumi Yamamoto, a friend of JOYZ, documented the day: me doing the mural, and also JOYZ playing live while I was doing the painting. There was a typhoon that day, but we were all snug inside. This is everyone, including the cafe staff... If you're in Tokyo on October 29, try to make it to the live event, I bet it'll be fantastic. For tickets and more details, go to the iriya cafe blog. Wish I could be there!

Japan trip

After the conference in Kyoto, I travelled for a week with some friends, and we went to Naoshima, an island in the Inland Sea that has been turned into a sort of 'art park'. It has several museums: my favourite was the 'Chichu Art Museum' with some amazing installations by James Turrell. You can get all the details of Naoshima here:


We stayed in a mongolian tent on the beach, and in the morning, we walked to Yayoi Kusama's pumpkin scuplture on the end of a jetty. It was beautiful. Serenely odd and perfect at the same time.

There were various scupltures and art pieces dotted around the island, so it made exploring really exciting!

We also spent a few days in Tokyo, visiting galleries and traditional shops to get printmaking supplies.

3331 in Tokyo is a new multi-use artspace in an old school, that has galleries, studios and workshops. I bought a print, and thought about having a show here one day.

I also ate tasty tasty tai yaki,

and had a restful day local style at Odaiba...

Kyoto exhibitions and print conference

Hi there, I've just had work in two exhibitions in Kyoto! Sorry for the late notice, but have to say they were both lovely. The first was a show of work by artists who attended the moku hanga (Japanese woodblock printing) residency in Nagasawa, Japan.

It was a Japanese style show, with all the work laid out on low tables, unframed, so you could see the subtleties of colour and texture. It was held at the Kyoto Arts Centre.

The second was a show of artists books, held in a specialist arts book shop. It was very very sweet. You could leaf through the books (after washing your hands, or putting on gloves), so it was possible to see all the pages.

I was in Kyoto for the 1st ever International Moku Hanga Conference, it was great! I attended several workshops...

and watched various demonstrations and presentations, by experts in the field, both local and from abroad.

I met  many interesting printmakers from around the world, and spent time with old friends I don't get to see often enough... and now I've definately got to work harder on my printmaking! Watch this space for new prints soon...